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Slap Shots 

Wednesday, May 8 1996
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The Resurrection of Adam Rich
"If you can't laugh at yourself, you've missed the biggest fucking joke of your life."

At least according to former child star Adam Rich, once the adorable Nicholas Bradford of the '70s ABC-TV program Eight Is Enough.

Adam is currently passing through the city on a short press tour, attempting to convince everyone he is not dead, because the newest issue of Might magazine claims he is. Their cover story features an ominous close-up shot of Rich, with the headline, "Fare Thee Well, Gentle Friend." The feature inside rolls on for several pages, a series of wry jokes strung together into a parody of a "celebrity death" article one would find in Rolling Stone or Spin.

"We collaborated on a very outrageous, outlandish, embellished story of my death," says Rich. "All too often the media distorts and inflates, and tastelessly exploits celebrities' deaths to sell a magazine and a buck. And that's why we did this -- to say, 'That's not cool. You guys suck.' "

Written in cooperation with Rich, the bogus article covers the actor's career, his untimely death, and the aftermath, surrounded by scrapbook photos and a final interview, conducted just days before he was supposedly shot in front of a nightclub. It does have inspired, clever moments -- descriptions of a young Adam terrorizing the Eight Is Enough set, throwing potato salad, trashing his trailer, suddenly pulling a knife on a stagehand. He reputedly gobbled vitamin C tablets in an effort to make his skin fire-retardant. Co-star Ralph "Karate Kid" Macchio was terrified of him. The nightclub in question was named the Asp, in homage to the Viper Room, last stop of River Phoenix.

But despite these seemingly obvious details, the prank produced an unexpected reaction. Most readers took it for granted that Adam Rich was dead -- shot in the chest after being robbed of his wallet. Why not? After all, it is Los Angeles. And Rich has been in the news over the years, juggling both Hollywood and hormones. It's a wonder nobody's shot Danny Bonaduce, when you think about it.

As soon as the issue was published, national media from Hard Copy to the National Enquirer immediately began working on obituary pieces. The news quickly spread among Rich's friends that he was dead. And after everyone realized they'd been the victim of a hoax, both press and friends were outraged. When contacted at home by reporters and told the news, Rich's Eight Is Enough co-star Dick Van Patten reportedly was furious.

The magazine had to issue a public apology, a press release admitting that "unfortunately, Might's satire erred on the side of subtlety."

Rich is not dead, as he is quick to point out. Nor is he living on the streets. The 27-year-old is sober and back on track, painting, teaching acting to kids in Beverly Hills, and like 2,352,667 other people in Southern California, he's close to getting a project off the ground. But in the grand, noisy parade of American pop culture, none of this is newsworthy.

"In terms of media, they want him dead, because it's much more fun," explains Might Editor Dave Eggers. "It's a letdown. It's not news that there's this guy who's 27, he's doing pretty well, and was once on TV, and he's living a life. Who fucking cares? They want him dead, or they want him in jail. They don't want Adam Rich happy and living in Brentwood. What's so fun about that?"

According to Eggers, who also contributes the Smart Feller! comic to this paper and is a funny guy, his magazine had planned the dead-celebrity stunt for some time, and considered various child actors before making the decision to go with Rich.

So why did everyone fall for the joke?
"It's so believable, and it just feels right, and I think that's what's so eerie about it. After two months, in a large part of the public consciousness, the assumption is going to be he's dead."

"People are saying this wasn't funny," explains Rich, "and what am I trying to do, and why would I do something like this, am I just trying to get attention, or create a comeback, you know, shit like that. So I'm writing a letter to my fans on the Internet, to lighten up and get a sense of humor."

"You expect it," says Eggers of the hoax death. "If it was Dana Plato, or Todd Bridges, or anybody, you just expect it. That's the way that these lives end. To everybody, it's much easier to believe that. He should be holding up Laundromats and shit, with Plato."

Address all correspondence to: Slap Shots, c/o SF Weekly, 425 Brannan, San Francisco, CA 94107; phone: (415) 536-8152; e-mail: slapshawts@aol.com.

By Jack Boulware

About The Author

Jack Boulware

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